Removing Friction, Simplifying Fitness, and 10 Ways to Optimize Your Food Environment

In 2012, there was a study published in the American Journal of Public Health looking at ways to increase sales of healthy food and beverages in a large hospital setting.

To keep things simple, they started with trying to sell more water than soda.

They rearranged the cafeteria refrigerators in more convenient locations and put water bottles at eye level to be easily seen.

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To get a baseline before rearrangement, they recorded all the food sales for 3 months.

Then, after those 3 months were up, they rearranged the cafeteria to encourage healthy beverage selection for another 3 months.

The results they found were super interesting.

Researchers found regular soda sales decreased by 23.1% and bottled water sales increased by 25.8% from baseline (out of 977,793 items, including 199,513 beverages).

Think about this.

The normal cafeteria visitors did NOTHING different and subconsciously made healthier choices.

This is the potential power of the environment around you.

And it begs a few questions to traditional thinking:

What if you didn’t have to rely on superhero levels of discipline and willpower?

What if you actually made your environment work for you, instead of against you?

There’s only one way to find out.

First, remove all “friction.”

I despise going to the gym in the mornings.

I typically don’t have to anymore, but there was a period of my life where I had no other option. And since this wasn’t my norm, I failed to even get out of bed on multiple occasions.

Taking a Tim Ferriss approach to this problem, I calculated every single step to make going to the gym as easy and as “frictionless” as possible.

This process was crucial to start the night before because I needed to eliminate every possible excuse NOT to go to the gym.

Here was my ritual:

  • I set out my compression shorts, shorts, socks, shirt, watch, and shoes beside my bed (possibly a jacket/hoodie too).

  • I mixed up my pre-workout cocktail and put it in the fridge.

  • I had my keys (with gym pass), wallet, and charged headphones ready to go by the door.

  • I had my pre-workout snack prepared: ready-to-drink protein shake in the fridge, 0.5-1 serving of sea salted almonds in a plastic baggie, and a banana.

  • I made sure I knew exactly what I was going to do at the gym that day (if you’re not confident in your workout plan, hire a coach to make one for you. It’s not worth the added stress/waste of time to “wing it” on your own).

  • I went to sleep at least 7 hours before I needed to wake up. I had two alarms set within 5 minutes apart, just in case (turn snooze OFF).

And boom, in less than 30 minutes of prep time I set myself up for success. I made it to the gym every single time after that, without fail, IF I followed through with this nightly ritual.

You can use this line of thinking with almost every obstacle you face when it comes to keeping you on track with your fitness goals.

When my clients say they wanna drink on the weekend, but not sabotage their goals, I advise them to:

 - “Pre-game” before going out to save money and limit unnecessary calories (if people buy you a sugary shot at the bar, you don’t decline).

- Opt for hard liquor and zero calorie mixers (or straight) to maximize drunkenness and minimize excess kcals

- Balance their calories throughout the day by eating quality protein, veggies, and fruit (low calorie/nutrient dense options) only leading up to their night of drinking

IMPORTANT: Having a post-drink meal ready upon returning home to avoid late night binges. My go-to is having a deli meat sandwich (honey whole wheat bread, turkey, cheese, spinach, tomato) pre-prepared in a plastic baggie, along with baked chips, a Powerade Zero, and some fruit.

If you do these, you’ll thank me in the morning.

And if you’re a regular reader of this site, you know we value simplicity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Removing “friction” is a vital element to making your life--and reaching your goals--easier.

Next, optimize your food environment.

Just like the study from the beginning, we want to remove willpower as much as possible in order facilitate our desired outcomes. 

There’s quite a few ways to do this and I want to give a hat tip to James Clear for partial credit to this list. 

Let’s begin.

1. Use smaller plates and utensils (food covers more of plate = more perceived food; small utensils = less food per bite = eat slower)

2. Put out healthy foods/snacks (apples, bananas, oranges, protein bars, etc.) around your house, office, work desk, etc., instead of candy or baked treats.

3. Use tall, slender glasses instead of short, fat ones (more perceived liquid in tall/slender).

4. Put your unhealthy snacks in hard to reach places (even better, out of the house) and put the healthier ones in easy-to-see/reach places. Make note of what is eye level in your fridge and cabinets/pantries.

5. Wrap your healthy foods in clear wrapping or casing (easily visible). Use aluminum foil to wrap unhealthy foods and/or store them in opaque containers.

6. Keep a water bottle with you at all times if your goal is to drink more (plz don't carry around a gallon jug; a liter is as high as you’re allowed to go without being viewed as a Mega-Douche). Eliminating all liquid calories is a must for fat loss.

7. Eat the healthier foods on your plate FIRST. Eat your protein first if you struggle to eat enough protein each day.

8. Use a meal service for one meal a day that usually requires a lot of willpower to eat healthy (think dinner/pre-bed)

9. Put your utensil down in-between bites to slow down your eating

10. Implement intermittent fasting and only eat during an 8 hour window each day

Finally: just hire a coach, dude.

Yes, yes, I know. This is where I pitch you, blah, blah, blah.

But seriously, you can follow everything I’ve told you in this article (and the rest of my site) and get amazing results for free.

However.

This article is primarily focused on efficiency: getting things done in the most economical manner possible.

Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things.

This is where an experienced coach can save you loads of time, money, and headaches. Most importantly, it can put you on the fast-track to actually getting results.

Which is why I have hired 4 coaches in the past 3 years and it has been worth every penny and more.

Yes, even coaches need coaches.

So if you’ve not progressed much in the past 6 months (which probably indicates what your next 6 months will look like, too), it may be time to hire someone with some skin in the game.

Plus, having someone plan out every exercise, set, and rep for you before you ever step into the gym can help relieve any second-guessing and anxiety about your current regimen.

Lucky for you, I may know a guy.

The bottom line is this: design for laziness.

If you’re constantly making excuses about why you don’t have the time or the discipline required for your goals, I just see it as poor planning.

There’s always someone less fortunate and busier than you are, yet they’re still getting it done.

And here comes the cliché you’ve been waiting for – you just have to work smarter, not harder.

Reaching your fitness goals, building new habits, and eliminating bad ones are already difficult enough.

Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.


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